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The Nest Is Empty…What Now?

When the last child leaves the home, many parents struggle with feelings of sadness and loneliness. Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, but it's a term used to describe the feelings parents and guardians may face when they begin a new chapter of their life where their children no longer live in the home. It's important to keep in mind that these feelings are completely normal and a part of adjusting to big changes. It's natural to miss your kids and worry about them after they leave the home. It's a sign that you love and care about them. However, when experiencing empty nest syndrome, these feelings can be very intense and overwhelming. For some, empty nest syndrome can pass after a few days or weeks, whereas for others it can be longer lasting and even stir up some feelings of depression and anxiety. If you are wondering if you are experiencing empty nest syndrome there are some signs to look out for: 

  • A sense of redundancy in your day-to-day life 

  • Persistent sadness

  • Worry and anxiety about your children

  • Frustration over lack of control 

  • Emotional distress

  • Restlessness

  • Loneliness

  • Increased marital tensions

  • A loss of identity or purpose in life 

 

When the last child leaves the home, parents are faced with many new challenges that they must learn to overcome. These include establishing a new type of relationship with their child, filling the void in their daily routine, and managing the lack of sympathy or understanding from others who consider children leaving the home to be a happy event. In addition, those who are married may need to adjust to being a couple again after sharing their home with the children for so long. In addition, there are many life challenges that parents may be facing at the same time such as empty nesting such as retirement, menopause, or the death of a spouse. 

While this transition period can be filled with a lot of emotional turmoil, there are a few benefits to having an empty nest such as: 

  • A sense of relief from the day-to-day responsibilities of child raising.

  • Freedom to update or renew your identity as an individual. 

  • For some couples, there may be an increase in intimacy. 

  • More time to explore personal interests. 

  • Reduction in work and family conflicts. 

  • More time to pursue goals. 

  • Improved relationship with children.  

  • Fewer day-to-day stressors 

 

If you know your last child will be leaving the home soon, it may be a good idea to start preparing for the event. Small changes made over time makes it easier to adjust and may even make the occasion a little happier. Here are some tips that may help you get ready for this new phase of life: 

  • Focus on self-care. Start treating yourself the way you've always treated your children. Self-care is about making yourself feel good and not just looking after everyone else. Sign up for that class you've always wanted to take or try to learn that instrument that's been collecting dust. It's okay to take time to focus on yourself every now and then. 

  • Rediscover old passions. Has it been a while since you picked up that guitar or got lost in a good book? It might be time to get back into the hobbies you used to enjoy. 

  • Build up your support network. Just because your children are not around as often, doesn't mean you have to be alone. Schedule time with friends, join new clubs or groups, or connect with parents who are going through the same thing. 

  • Plan for the future. This is a great opportunity to start thinking about what's next. This may be a great opportunity to go back to school, volunteer, change careers, etc. This is a great time to go after what makes you excited. 

  • Talk to your child. Ask them how they are feeling and take the time to express your own feelings. Make a plan for how you will keep in touch and how to manage the new distance between you.

 

If you are currently struggling with empty nest symptom there are some steps you can take to cope with the change: 

  • Acknowledge your grief and allow yourself to feel upset.

  • Accept that your feelings are normal and give yourself time to adapt to the changes. 

  • Consider starting a new career or starting a part-time job. 

  • Discuss your thoughts, feelings and future plans and seek advice and support from other friends who understand how you feel. 

  • Pursue your hobbies and interests. 

  • Think about your goals and write down the steps you need to take to reach them. 

  • Stay connected with your kids with regular phone calls, visits, or video chats. 

  • Reconnect with your partner or friends. 

  • Focus on the positives. 

  • Find ways to laugh with others.

  • Realize your role as a parent has changed, not ended. 


While empty nest syndrome is normal, you may want to consider seeking help if feelings of loneliness, depression, or sadness last longer than a few weeks and/or are overwhelming your everyday life. 





Written By,

Tierney Puig


 

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